Sending your children onto that big yellow school bus for the first time can be daunting even to the most hard-hearted parent. Will they cry? Will they find friends? Will they be able to open their lunch box without my help? Any of those questions and more have left generations of kindergarten parents standing at bus stops at the beginning of September and wiping away tears.
Changes to school culture in our current climate, attributable to such things as the social media and Common Core, may have made parents more wary than ever of their children’s first school experience.
Mother of twins who will be entering kindergarten in the fall, Roxanne Ferber says she is most worried about bullying. “I hear more and more that it starts so early,” she said. “I hope I am raising resilient kids.” She says she thinks today’s kindergarten classrooms look different from what she remembers. “When I was in kindergarten I was just learning what most kids learn in preschool now. I remember a lot of art, music, snack and nap time. I am expecting it to be more structured and more academically driven than learning playtime skills.”
Marie Molloy, whose son will be entering kindergarten in September, worries about how a greater emphasis on academics might impact his experience. “I worry about oh so many things,” she said. “Some are rational. Most are not. His self-esteem. Will he disengage? Will his natural curiosity and love of learning be quashed? Will there be enough free play and physical activity? I worry about the classroom environment. I hope that his teachers have an understanding and appreciation for boy energy.”
Amanda Bradley, director of the Children’s Workshop preschool, says parents are right to anticipate a greater focus on academics than when they started school She says greater academic emphasis in kindergarten has trickled down even to the preschool level. According to Bradley, in kindergarten “children are expected to sit for longer periods of time for a curriculum lesson. Also, preschool programs are expected to have children writing the alphabet upper and lower case as well as starting sight words because of the high pressure to read in kindergarten.”
Even though parents may feel considerable trepidation from parents, there is still excitement. “I am most excited to hear the stories my kids will come home with,” said Ferber. “I can’t wait to hear about their activities, their teachers and their friends.” To encourage that excitement, she has been talking to her twins about how much fun the kids will have in their music and art classes. She has brought them to the school’s playground to play over the summer.
The strategy seems to be working. “They are getting more and more excited,” she said. “They love learning and making new friends. They can’t wait to reunite with the friends they made in pre-K.”
Molloy’s son is looking forward to starting school. She said he had a tremendous time in his preschool program, and she hopes to make the transition as seamless as possible. She says he’s feeling ‘pretty good’ about kindergarten. He’s looking forward to his new school supplies.”
She too has something to look forward to come September. “I am looking forward to seeing a big smile on my son’s face every day when I pick him up.”